Even though his father headed up one of the large packing plants in Iowa, Stan Lammers saw his future in other types of business. He was a salesman, working first as a sales manager for hog feeders in eastern Iowa, then selling automobiles. Then the enabling thought hit – why not merge his energy and sales/business know-how with the experience in meat processing of his father?
“Some things hold true no matter what you do, good-business things,” Lammers said.
Lammers founded his business, LamPost Meats, which takes meat products considered to be of low sales value among large slaughter outfits (offalls) and further processes them into small quantity packages of frozen, ready-to-cook specialty items, like chitlins, which are of higher value in specialty, ethnic markets. And, he noted, he calls on almost a daily basis to draw on his father’s expertise.
LamPost began its business trek in 1993. Within six months a processing room was built and federal approval gained. It started production before the flood of ’93 hit the area of its home base on the south side of downtown Des Moines. While the building itself escaped damage, Lammers said he had three weeks of inventory and six weeks in which to get it sold. That pushed him to further develop his markets.
LamPost holds, controls and runs its own inventories. Most of the product is frozen. And, while the initial venture involved only chitlins, it has since expanded into such other specialty items as beef tripe and pork and beef feet.
Primary markets around the country are stores and restaurants that wish to invest in sales to African-American, Hispanic and, on a more limited basis, Asian customers.
Slaughter houses tend to take the meat parts that Lammers is interested in and sell them cheaply in bulk form – without further processing. LamPost purchases these products and does further processing, then puts them through a unique freezing and packaging process, so they are case-ready for the customer, in package sizes that are useful for individual family cooking.
Filling a consumer need, then knowing markets and getting to them to sell product are areas where Lammers said he did his homework. To make the original LamPost product, he said, all they did to add value was reclean the meat product, then package and process (freeze) it in a way that was more popular and more useful to meat shoppers. Package size and readiness to cook are important factors in meat sales of any kind. Lammers was selling convenience.
He is proud of the fact that he helped make a market expand dramatically. But then, he admitted, the market became over-saturated. LamPost had to scramble to find other avenues of product and revenue. It moved into processing of beef tripe and pork and beef feet, going through the same process of information gathering and market research, then making those products case-ready as a convenience to certain groups of consumers.
Since chitlins were not a major consumer product in some areas, that meant working directly with store owners to sell the idea. A large chain in Iowa, for example, might have 300 stores, but maybe only 10 move a decent quantity of chitlins; maybe 25 move some quantity. So the sales approach does not work as well with management of the chain as it does with individual store managers. He said in the south, there is high demand for the product and lots of small community stores, but they can get the product locally.
Ninety percent of his business is done with the top 25 grocer chains in the country.
In order to do business successfully in ethnic markets, Lammers said, he asked questions of everybody with whom he talked – consumers, store managers, chain managers and restaurant people. He sought to identify potential customer groups. He asked what worked for them. What would make a product better? What do they like and what don’t they like about a product? He frequently shipped product by costly FedEx to let people (outlets) “see if the product flew.” Even now, he reminds people that the meat industry is a high dollar industry.
Eventually, he said he wants to look more definitively at international export markets. But he noted a couple of problems with taking the business that direction. Some of those countries in which consumers can afford meat products can and do already import high dollar cuts of meat from the U.S. In underdeveloped countries, where consumers simply want more cheap protein, the large packers take the offall and package it in some lesser way, perhaps in as large a box as they can to sell to consumers as cheaply as possible. Lammers’ company gives “further service” on these cheaper cuts, but in underdeveloped countries, labor is cheap and any further service can be applied (if at all) more cheaply.
What other new products might be in the works for the processor of specialty case-ready meat products? Perhaps different packaging, something even more attractive, he said. Or there may be opportunities to handle more meat items, such as pork butt.
“We are still in the business of service,” he explained.
He sees the specialty markets as his continued niche. “When you start getting into the full cuts of meat, you’ve either got to be cheaper or you’ve got to be better,” said Lammers. Maintaining staffing levels to grow the business is one difficulty right now. Currently LamPost operates with one office manager, a plant manager and nine employees. “I could sell for most of a day,” he said, “but I’ve got enough busy work to….”
For more information about LamPost Meats, contact:
Stanley G. Lammers
P.O. Box 5043
Des Moines, IA 50306
Phone: (515) 288-6111
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